Walking the line between providing your children with a moral, ethical or cultural compass with which to function in society and allowing them the freedom to form their own opinions and be their own person can be tricky.
Some parents believe that it is the best course of action to try to present a neutral front at all times. If a child asks, "Do you believe in God?" Or, "Which political party do you favor?" Or, "Is a capitalist or socialist system better for the average person?" they turn into Socrates and start turning their questions back on them. "What do you think? Why do you think that? Where do you think we could go to get more information?" Those parents never give so much as a hint at what their own convictions are.
Other parents feel that there is a morally right answer to many of life's big questions. They have come to their own conclusions about which answers are right/good and which are wrong/bad. They want their children to be good citizens, according to this moral code, and so they teach them accordingly. "We follow this religion because it is the truth." Or, "We march against that rule because it is unjust."
Of course, the vast majority of parents will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between "give a child total freedom in figuring the world out for themselves," and "teach a child every belief they should value." It seems logical to me that parenting to the extreme left would lead to a pack of anarchists ruling your house like little wolf children and the extreme right would land you on the 6 O'Clock news as some sort of a cult leader.
Most of us agree that children need some degree of direction/guidance in their lives and some amount of freedom to think for themselves. Also, even if you don't verbalize a belief to your child they see your actions and learn from them. Parents are teaching every moment of the day.
All of these thoughts have been buzzing in my head since a friend posted the video, below of a 12-year-old girl giving a speech about abortion.
First, I have to say, whether you agree with her view of the issue or not, this kid is a gifted speaker. I know a lot of adults (myself included) who wouldn't be able to speak so clearly and with such passion in front of a group. This debate has been going on for longer than I've been alive and everything that needs to be said has been said a thousand times so it's not like she burst forth with some amazing revelation that no one before her has ever spoken of. But her points are clearly well-researched and well stated. I hope she got a great grade!
The friend who originally posted the video made a similar observation and said that he hoped whoever the child was who had to argue the other side of the debate was ready for her pointed questions.
Of course, because of the nature of the topic the comments turned into a bit of a firestorm.
What was interesting, though, was that people weren't arguing about whether or not abortion should be legal. They were arguing about whether a child of this age could hold an opinion as strong as the one she presents without having been "brainwashed" by their parents.
The two arguments seemed to break down like this:
The child is obviously just repeating what has been told to her. She is too young to have an opinion of her own on such a matter. Therefore, there is nothing I can learn from this speech. It has no value beyond a classroom exercise in standing up in front of a crowd.
People under-estimate kids. Their thoughts and ideas on topics such as these are just as valuable as those posed by adults - maybe even more so.
What do you think? Keep in mind, I'm not asking about abortion, specifically, but using it as an example of a controversial, traditionally "adult" topic.
Are children intellectually capable of forming their own ideas on "big/adult" topics such as abortion?
Should children have a voice in society's discussion of such things?
If your answer is no, what age (on average) is "old enough" to speak?
Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?
If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!
More from parenting